More joy for Balestier, SAFFC crisis deepens

Balestier Khalsa piled more misery on SAFFC in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League on Thursday as they recorded a 1-0 win over the struggling Warriors.

Karoglan trying to escape Park's attentions.

By Gabriel Tan at the Toa Payoh Stadium

Tigers substitute Andrew Tan scored the only goal of the game in the 69th minute but the scoreline failed to reflect on what had been a dominant display from the hosts, and what was - for the most part - an extremely lacklustre performance by SAFFC.

With their title aspirations fast disappearing after picking up just eight points from their opening seven games, it was imperative the Warriors got off to a better start than they did in last Thursday's 2-2 draw with Woodlands Wellington, when they conceded after only 15 minutes.

90 Minutes With: Goran Subara

The Warriors did just that, although in slippery conditions there was a tentative beginning to the eagerly anticipated clash, with neither side looking particularly adventurous.

Nonetheless, Balestier were looking in a fairly buoyant mood, understandable perhaps after last week's impressive 2-1 win over Albirex Niigata, and created the better chances in the opening exchanges.

Hamqaamal Shah, returning to midfield after playing at left-back last Friday, almost made his way in behind the Warriors backline in the fourth minute, with Shahril Jantan having to be alert to deny him a shooting chance, before Daniel Bennett did likewise five minutes later.

The Balestier wideman was looking very lively early on and next played an excellent cross onto the head of Goran Subara, who headed wide from just inside the box after staying up from a corner.

Not willing to be outdone by his counterpart on the opposite flank, Ruhaizad Ismail, who scored a ferocious winner against Albirex, drove down the right in the 19th minute and unleashed a cracking drive which stung the hands of Shahril.

Two minutes later, it was Park Kang-jin's turn to try his luck from distance, forcing a superb save from the SAFFC veteran keeper, before Patrick Paranjody could only find the sidenetting after taking his marker Bah Mamadou out of the equation with a sharp turn.

Warriors coach Richard Bok was starting to cut a frustrated figure on the bench as they struggled to create anything up front; with their first real effort on goal only coming in the 28th minute - Mislav Karoglan turning deftly just outside the box before firing one in that Joey Sim did well to push away.

Nonetheless, the Warriors were always going to be a threat given the attacking talent they possessed, and they nearly took the lead against the run of play two minutes before the interval. A fast break saw Fazrul Nawaz race down the right before he delivered a dangerous cross that Subara did well to cut out with a sliding clearance, especially with the unmarked Karoglan waiting expectantly behind him.

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Karoglan has been one of the few shining lights for SAFFC this season but he has yet to rediscover the form he showed last season, when he won the S.League's Player of the Year after finishing as the competition's top scorer. Still, he made his way into a good position inside the box once again in the 67th minute, and should have done more than just fire over when he was picked out after a nice interchange of passes between Fazrul and Tatsuro Inui.

And the Warriors were made to pay for their Croatian marksman's miss two minutes later when the Tigers finally grabbed a deserving lead through Tan. Having only been on for seven minutes after replacing the injured Hamqaamal, the 24-year-old did brilliantly to skip past a few challenges after receiving the ball on the edge of the area, before clinically sliding his shot under Shahril's despairing dive.

Seven minutes from time, Tan nearly added a second when he hurdled over Bennett's sliding challenge and broke free down the left, before curling a right-footed shot just wide of the post.

Now looking completely exhausted in both mind and body, the Warriors mustered one final effort to steal a share of the spoils when Inui found space on the right-side of the box and glided past Sim, only to see ball roll out of play before he could fire an effort towards the unguarded net.

With that, Balestier moved back top of the table, at least until DPMM FC take to the field against Tanjong Pagar United on Friday, while SAFFC have now picked up just one point from their last three games.

Balestier Khalsa: Joey Sim, Jaslee Hatta, Goran Subara, Paul Cunningham, Syed Thaha, Ruhaizad Ismail (Poh Yi Feng 80'), Ridwan Jamil, Tengku Mushadad, Hamqaamal Shah (Andrew Tan 62'), Park Kang-jin, Patrick Paranjody (Kim Min-ho 67').

SAFFC: Shahril Jantan, Razaleigh Khalik (Erwan Gunawan 78'), Daniel Bennett, Bah Mamadou, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Ruzaini Zainal (Eddie Chang 90'), Shimpei Sakurada, Shukor Zailan, Tatsuro Inui, Fazrul Nawaz, Mislav Karoglan.

Attendance: 889

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